Some Port is "tawny" and some is "ruby" … is it all the same?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Some Ports are labeled “tawny,” or “ruby,” but others just read “Port,” or “Porto.” Are they all the same?

—Jonathan, Fort Worth, Texas

Dear Jonathan,

Ports, the beloved fortified wines of Portugal’s Douro Valley, can be pretty confusing! (That’s why I put together a very handy guide to Port if you have time for a more in-depth read.) Tawny and ruby are both categories of Port. Tawny Ports are aged a long time in barrels. The label will typically say how long it was aged, whether 10 years or 40 years. This extended oak exposure means the wine will likely have lots of nutty and dried fruit notes. Ruby Ports are some of the least expensive Ports, typically aged for just two or three years before release, and with minimal oak influence, so they show off a more fruit-forward style.

You might also find Ports labeled as “colheita,” which are tawny Ports made from a single vintage, or LBV (late-bottled vintage), which are usually bottled four to six years after harvest. And neither of those are to be confused with the most highly regarded category: Vintage Port, which is only made in the best “declared” vintages, from the best grapes, then aged two years before bottling.

The good news is that once you understand the different types of Ports, it’s pretty easy to tell which is which just by looking at the label.

—Dr. Vinny

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